The final rule implements the changes made by section 4005 of The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (PL 115- 334) (the Act) to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The Department published the proposed rule on March 17, 2020, and received 75 comments, 72 of which were substantive.
The final rule requires state agencies to consult with their state workforce development boards on the design of their E&T programs and to document in their E&T state plans the extent to which their E&T programs will be carried out in coordination with activities under title I of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WOIA) (PL 113-128).
The final rule also makes changes to E&T components including: replacing job search with supervised job search as a component; eliminating job finding clubs; replacing job skills assessments with employability assessments; adding apprenticeships and subsidized employment as allowable activities; requiring a 30-day minimum for provision of job retention services; and allowing those activities from the E&T pilots authorized under the Agricultural Act of 2014 (PL 113-79) that have had the most demonstrable impact on the ability of participants to find and retain employment that leads to increased income and reduced reliance on public assistance to become allowable E&T activities.
The final rule also requires that, in addition to providing one or more E&T components, all E&T programs provide case management services to E&T participants. The rule revises the definition of good cause for failure to comply with the requirement to participate in E&T to include instances in which an appropriate component or opening in an E&T program is not available. It also modifies the required reporting elements in the final quarterly E&T Program Activity Report provided by state agencies to include the number of SNAP applicants and participants who are required to participate in E&T, of those, the number who begin participation in the E&T program and an E&T component, and the number of mandatory E&T participants who are determined ineligible for failure to comply.
The rule adds workforce partnerships as a way for SNAP participants to meet their work requirements. It also establishes a funding formula for reallocated E&T funds and increases the minimum allocation of 100 percent funds for each state agency to $100,000, as prescribed by the Act. The rule requires state agencies to re-direct individuals who are determined ill-suited for an E&T program component to other more suitable activities.
The final rule also codifies some changes to policy pertaining to able bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs). These changes include updating the regulations to reflect the reduction in the number of ABAWD work exemptions from 15 percent to 12 percent (this change was implemented at the start of fiscal year 2020) and referring to such exemptions as “discretionary exemptions,” as well as adding workforce partnerships and employment and training programs for veterans operated by the Department of Labor or the Department of Veteran’s Affairs to the list of work programs for ABAWDs.
The rule replaces “job search” with “supervised job search” as a type of activity that cannot count as a work program for the purposes of an ABAWD fulfilling their work requirement, unless it comprises less than half the work requirement. The final rule adds the requirement that all state agencies advise certain zero-income households subject to the general work requirement at recertification of employment and training opportunities. The rule also requires state agencies to provide to all households subject to work requirements a consolidated written notice and comprehensive oral explanation of the work requirements for individuals within the household. Overall, the Department believes the statutory changes made by section 4005 of the Act will strengthen E&T programs, and improve SNAP participants’ ability to gain and retain employment, thus reducing participant reliance on the social safety net.
Through this legislation, Congress has tasked the Department and state agencies with reviewing and bolstering the quality and accountability of E&T programs for SNAP participants. The final rule allows for more evidence-based components and requires more accountability on the part of both state agencies and E&T participants while also retaining state flexibility. Notably, the addition of case management to the definition of an E&T program fundamentally changes SNAP E&T and the expectation for how state agencies must engage with E&T participants.
As a result, the Department made several changes to the way E&T programs are described. In the final rule, an E&T program is defined as a program providing both case management and one or more E&T components. E&T components may be comprised of a number of activities which are designed to achieve the purpose of the component
- Final Rule: Employment and Training Opportunities in SNAP
- Proposed Rule: Employment and Training Opportunities in the SNAP
- Press Release: USDA Continues to Move SNAP Participants Forward (1/4/21)
- Press Release: USDA Improving Services to Provide More SNAP Participants the Dignity of Work (3/5/20)
- Fact Sheet: Regulatory Reform at a Glance: Employment and Training Opportunities in SNAP (Final Rule)
- Fact Sheet: Regulatory Reform at a Glance: Employment and Training Opportunities in SNAP
- March 2020 letter to states